On Fishing and Freedom

Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” (John 21)

In reading St. John’s epilogue this morning I was reminded of Tom. Tom would sober up for weeks, even months at a time. But the signs of his return to the street were almost always evident. He would begin to drop critical remarks about Hope Mission staff, or about his old street buddies. He would slowly become unforgiving of people around him, and especially of people who tried to care for him. I’m not sure what this was except a sign of his own return to a sense of not-worthy-of-being-forgiven.

Tom is not unique. This oscillation between preening and self-loathing is a primal thing that haunts us all in a thousand ways. And when we lose ground in this inner turf war we fall back on what we know. We stop moving to where we are called.

Peter, after a three year run with Jesus, and then, even after seeing and speaking with the resurrected Jesus, was going back fishing. Only after Jesus grabbed him by the lapels of his toga and shook the forgiveness into him three times did he sense possibility…sense salvation. Only after this did he find the freedom to move out from an old place. In his case, packing in fishing, making a few surprising speeches and basically changing the world. Most of us won’t be called into the drama in quite the same way; in fact, some of us may be called to go fishing. The point is that we find the freedom borne in receiving forgiveness. 

When we live the unforgiven life we stay chained to that ball. But when we sense a love that eclipses all our, ahem, crap; even the crap that we know we’ll step in today, we walk in freedom, or as Luther said, we sin boldly.

Remember Judas? The “problem” with Judas wasn’t that he betrayed Jesus. Every disciple and hanger-on betrayed Jesus. The problem was that Judas believed that his betrayal was uniquely unforgivable. This is the definition of binding despair.

This is not at all like a line in a song Ruthie Foster (she was wonderful by the way) sang at the Jubilee Auditorium last night: “Well I woke up this morning with my mind…stayed on freedom.” When we wake up like that we know something is going right. We know that yet again, we will experience the freeing presence of the risen and forgiving victim. Do I hear a hallelujah!?…Ruthie’s rubbing off.

The Skull

What possesses someone to use a life-size–I assume replica–of a skull as a dash ornament?

Perched on the front dash of a passing white Chevy van, the thing starred me down on my walk to work this morning.

Do they use real skulls for molds to make replicas? Or do the more morbid sculptors of this world know how to sculpt from memory? If they use real skulls, who’s do they use? Which leaves me wondering who it was I saw this morning.

The driver is my real concern however. Well, just a moment, I remember a plastic skeleton, a little larger than a key fob, that I had when I was sixteen. I hung it from the rearview mirror of my $75 Vauxhaul Viva. But no comparison really.

The skull this morning had it’s desired effect–shock value and garnered attention. Obviously…I’m writing about it.

Is it too much to read it as a garish and unimaginative symbol of our culture’s orientation toward death? Yeah probably. But for some reason it’s the way I think.

There are far more subtle and ridiculous signs of our death-wish-orientation. One rather leaky symbol of this orientation is the obsessions and excesses of our desire-for-youthfulness. Something the skull can no longer desire. And in this knowledge, I take my revenge upon the skull for unsettling my morning walk. Take that hollowed-one!

Hope Springs Eternal

Never thought I’d find myself going out of my way to praise our local tabloid. But this morning as I walked by one of the Edmonton Sun’s red dispensers I was delighted to read today’s headline…REBIRTH OF HOPE, and the tagline…Easter from Edmonton to Afghanistan rekindles world spirits. How refreshing.

Of course, a bit confusing was that directly under the headline was a picture of an Oiler fan and seller of Oiler paraphernalia. But the incongruent juxtaposition of headline and picture is something the Sun always does. At least today the picture of a happy and hopeful Oiler fan fits the headline.

So, to the EdSun…credit where credit is due. It’s a rare time that the front page of a newspaper serves to bouy your spirits.

It also seems to me that the grass has turned green overnight. Fitting for resurrection week.

Perhaps Alexander Pope was right. In the face of adversity, whether it’s Detroit or Kandahar, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”

The Lord has Risen

They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24)

Outside our patio doors on 104th Ave it’s snowing great wet flakes. An old man with a bulging back-pack walks by, followed by a young women walking a sand-coloured spaniel. All three, man, woman and dog look around with expressions of mild incredulity. (What? You’ve never seen a spaniel look incredulous?) And I’m thinking, well, if they find snow in April hard to believe they’re never going to believe the thing that happened all those Easter’s ago.

Outside our patio doors on 104th Ave it’s snowing great wet flakes. An old man with a bulging back-pack walks by, followed by a young women walking a sand-coloured spaniel. All three, man, woman and dog look around with expressions of mild incredulity. (What? You’ve never seen a spaniel look incredulous?) And I’m thinking, well, if they find snow in April hard to believe they’re never going to believe the thing that happened all those Easter’s ago.

Jesus has risen!

I think this belief, that I now hold onto both tenaciously and effortlessly, seeped in as I watched my mother prepare and serve a thousand evening meals. It’s taken me all these years to see the connection between the Lord’s table and her’s.

Our faith’s central practise is the Eucharist–a table gathering. We are a community gathered around the Eucharist. It’s in the breaking of bread where we come to know Jesus and are made known to one another.

Christ is met in the breaking of bread, in the small acts of kindness, the small gifts of human reception. Christ’s resurrection is published in a smile of acceptance.

Jesus has risen indeed!